It is rare that I have a blog title that is one word, because I always have so much to say. Let me take a step back and say that I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions. Partly because they are cliché, partly because I don’t like the idea of setting myself up to fail. But last year I chose a word instead and stuck with it to change my lifestyle permanently. Simplify. That word has carried me from a place I didn’t know I was going to a place I crawled through to a place of acceptance and possibility. This past year was hard and yet easier than it would have been if I hadn’t been working already on Simplifying. My daughter was diagnosed with some special needs and it has been a year of being busier than I ever thought possible. We were already busy as all families with young children are. Being a two parent working family means running literally sometimes from one place to another. It means that at the end of the day there is never any time to just relax before you have to get up and do it all over again. Sometimes I am in a place of joy and confidence as I soar through all that I juggle on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes I let the enemy win, and that joy is hidden and I feel overwhelmed, flattened, tired of tiring to get it all done.
Simplifying my life started in the beginning of the year when I really had no idea that there would be big changes for our family and our schedules. For me it was really about the realization that I wanted more time with my family that I waited so long to have. This is what simplifying looked like for me:
- It meant saying no to friends who asked to go out for coffee, dinner, whatever.
- It meant no more phones at the dinner table or in hand from when I walk in the door until the kids go to bed. If I am on the phone with someone, when I pull into the driveway I get off the phone. This is time for my kids, the precious little hour as a family of 4 and 2 hours as a family of 3 per day. I will not let go of that for any reason.
- It meant getting rid of a lot of stuff in my house to make room for the stuff that really mattered. I really don’t own any grown up books anymore because I don’t have time to read them and I need the space for my kids’ books.
- It meant cooking meals ahead and freezing them.
- It meant finding ways to spend time together as a family without spending a lot of money. The zoo membership and other experience gifts we gave and received helped with this step. We go to the zoo usually about once a month after church and can be home for nap.
- It also meant learning to ignore things…gasp! Yes, learning that if there are still dishes in the sink or no clean laundry or a burned out light bulb that sometimes my husband and I still collapsed on the couch for a half an hour or an hour and watched a show on Netflix. Because really this leads into my next step…
- Self-care. It meant learning to start taking care of ourselves better so that we can take better care of our children. I’ve had to fight a lot of battles to get my daughter what she needs. I loathe confrontation and consider myself pretty resourceful, but fighting against a broken system to get help and answers for my daughter has taken more than I have to give. I have never lost my patience on the phone so much as I have this year with people who quite frankly don’t want to help or don’t really care. On a regular basis all I can muster to say reaching out in desperate prayer is, “Jesus!”
- For my husband, it meant taking a pay cut to leave a company of 20 + years to make a quality of life switch to a job with much less stress and incredible health insurance. Well, that’s a raise in itself! Going back to self-care, that also allowed him and me to afford to take care of some health problems our old terrible insurance didn’t cover. Taking the time to go to the doctor and physical therapy was tough, but meant self-care for a greater goal.
- It also meant taking a step back from saying yes and starting to say no when people asked me to volunteer for things. I stopped feeling guilty for saying no as well. I knew that my largest cause, for lack of a better word, is my family.
- It unfortunately also meant not traveling to see family as much as we would like to.
On the whole, it also meant not being the greatest friend or extended family member, making people mad at me, disappointing others, and coming across as cold or uncaring. But honestly, it was the best thing I could have done in preparation for what was to come our way as a family. I am an open person and have always tried to share what I was going through good or bad with others. Over the years, I have seen that this has been a way I can help and encourage others, from our struggle with infertility, to the adoption journey, to building relationships with our children’s birth families, to budgeting and saving money, and on it goes. *The one area that I have had trouble deciding to share on my blog is my daughter’s health. It isn’t that I don’t want anyone to know her struggles. It is more so that I feel I have an obligation to let her story be her own to share or not to share as she gets older. Being adopted adds another layer to it because so many people assume that my daughter’s health issues must be a result of something her mother did wrong during pregnancy. News flash – they are wrong! This is all had the same odds of happening to her if she was a biological child of mine. But I think it sounds worse when I try not to share.*
It was in March and April that everything came down on us. I knew for a long time that my daughter had some delays. I had mentioned them several times to the doctors but it was just too early to declare something was wrong. At our nine month visit, I brought them up again and I knew when our very easy going doctor who normalizes everything said yes, let’s get them checked out by both Early Intervention and outpatient specialists, that something was wrong. The next three months were quite a blur of first getting a generally diagnosis of global developmental delays and then getting more specific diagnoses of hypotonia, ligament laxity and muscle weakness. What that is stemming from if anything, has yet to be determined. If this is isolated and the infantile version and not associated with anything else, then she with lots of therapy may eventually overcome these things. But there are over 18 different special needs associated with hypotonia. If it were up to me I don’t really care what anyone calls her special needs, my goal is to just help her reach her fullest potential. However, it has been really important to get her checked out by every specialist under the sun so that we can make sure we aren’t missing something. In the whole scheme of things her needs are what some would call minor, which is of course a matter of perspective. However, on a daily basis they seem major to me and my husband. Just simply carrying a 28 pound child who cannot hold onto you and who will fall if you don’t support her is exhausting, for example. I say this not in any way to complain, but to show that God knew I needed to simplify in preparation for caring for my daughter. He knew that I would be running sometimes literally from work to appointments and therapies, 5 hours now 6 of therapies and treatment, trading off children in the parking lot with my husband, spending evenings split as a family between physical therapy and dinner, and all of the other things that go along with this. Simplify. Yes, simplify. I really needed to simplify. The Veterans of America have received many loads from us and more to come in the coming weeks. But more importantly than cleaning out our house, we have cleaned out the clutter in our mind, bodies and spirits.
This year I felt quietly that my word might be Build. Then sitting in church last week and hearing the pastor speak and mentioning the word build, I knew it was for sure. I have a strong desire to find the time to build something with my own two hands physically. We desire to move into a fixer upper and build it into our family home. I am ready to work on building on relationships with others, building on what we started last year and building up my strength to continue to help my family. I still have to simplify, that will be a constant process. But I can now build only because I simplified. Sometimes in the quiet moments – ha no quiet moments in most people’s lives – sometimes in the loudness of your everyday life, you have that ah-ha moment that shapes your year. Even if you have to yell out “Jesus” to make it through your day like me sometimes, I encourage you to find your word. You won’t fail like a new year’s resolution because it is a lifestyle change, and is a process, there is no end to it, only a beginning…